Malawi declares state of emergency over drought

Malawi has declared a state of emergency because the country has a shortage of one million tons of maize.

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Its current maize requirement is estimated at 3.2 million tons, but farmers could only produce approximately 2.4 million tons.

According to the latest World Food Programme (WFP) relief operation report, rainfall in Malawi improved in the northern and central districts. However, in many areas the erratic rain came too late for proper crop development. Southern Malawi continued to experience low rainfall, with eight districts now considered to be at risk for extreme drought.

Dr Flippie Cloete, an agricultural economist at North-West University, said that importing maize will not necessarily reduce Malawi’s food security risk.

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“The majority of production in Malawi is of subsistence nature and accessibility both in terms of affordability and availability will be a challenge for subsistence farmers and their families.”

Steep maize prices in Malawi are also making it increasingly difficult for people to access food. In February this year, maize prices were more than 60% above the three-year average for that time of the year, and up to 175% higher in some markets in the south.

WFP country representative in Malawi Coco Ushiyama said the organisation needs to investigate more food procurement options to respond adequately to the crisis. The number of people who will require assistance in 2015/2016 is estimated at 2,8 million, up from 1,3 million in 2014/2015.